Friday, July 6, 2012

Travels and Tastes of Finger Lakes NY

I rarely want to go back to the places I have been, at least not in exactly the same way.  The lack of time and resources makes me think of any type of travel as a precious commodity, so I always look for something new, something yet inexperienced, something newly exiting.  Besides, in my view, rarely a place lives up to the memories distorted by excitement.  Depending on the accompaniment of the trip, our minds can elevate even the most ordinary places into forever cherished ones.  I was a little worried about this trip; after all it would be a full re-creation of the one I took with my husband two years ago.   It was magical than, perfect romantic trip soaked with wine…I wanted to go back.  I am happy I did, and I hope to go back again a few years. 
Finger Lakes region of New York State is a picture perfect countryside.  Lush green hills laden with farms and grape vines, thick woods sprinkled with waterfalls, fields of wild flowers, all with a backdrop of deepest blue water of the lakes.  Views so beautiful, you are thinking of buying a farm just so that you wouldn’t have to leave.  For the average vacationer there is tons to do, you can choose to take in the beautiful trails and hike, boat or swim on the lakes, take in a sail cruise at sundown… or you can do what we did… drink lots of wine and eat great food.
With over 70 wineries in the area, it is the only place in United States to rival California’s wine country.  One winery more beautiful than the next, producing, in my opinion some serious wines, that regrettably are not known on the open market.  Yet, the wineries do not seem like the fancy venues of Long Island or Virginia, they are farms and do not pretend to be anything else.  There are no tents, bands and “dog and pony shows” to justify the hefty wine prices.  They are just good wines, done in small, manageable batches to perfect the quality.  And the food… it is simply delicious.  Any wine country region will attract a fair number of good restaurants, but what amazes me about Finger Lakes is that the restaurants stay simple and casual while serving the most gourmet food.  There are no outrageous prices, no huge waits and for the most part, no reservations needed. There is nothing snobby or pretentious about the food either.  The menus are small, listing the all local farms where the ingredients are sourced, the herbs and some veggies come from the restaurant’s own garden, which you can visit on your way to the parking lot, and the food is simple and delicious.  The cooking cannot be boxed into a certain cuisine or style, it is not all French or Mediterranean or American, it is not haute cuisine; it is just great ingredients prepared in a most harmonious way to the chef’s fancy.  It is the kind of food I always want to eat and cook.. Simple, delicious, beautiful to look at, and served on a patio lined with plastic tables.

I am not a Yelper or a Facebooker, no offence to anyone who is, I don’t like to “review” the places where I eat or stay.  I like the motto of  – “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, and when I do have something nice to say, I am rarely at owe, so I keep quiet.  This time around, I am at owe… so I will gladly post about the place we stayed at…
Juniper Hill Bed and Breakfast is a restored 1800’s colonial mansion.  It is restored with the most attention to detail and authenticity by the owners, Bruce and Dave.  They have managed to create a cozy, yet luxurious country retreat and if means were not an issue, I would set to build my own house in the image of this one.  The place is also an art gallery, with all or most paintings in the house being for sale.  The entire experience from the perfectly manicured garden, to the luxurious bed linens and three course breakfasts served on fine china spells romance and indulgence.  The house wraps you up, like a warm blanket and in 2 night’s time, I felt like I have been on vacation for a week.
                                  Romantic and cozy.  I keep searching the stores for the same linens.

This is the dining room where the breakfast is surved.  I felt mildly arithtocratic while contemplating what fork to use.

The place setting for breakfast. 

The second day, the breakfast was served in the sun room. 

Cold minted peach soup as the first course for breakfast. 

Second course.... I may never come home

Wine taster’s tools… Pen and paper to follow alone and take notes, a taster’s glass and bland crackers to cleanse the palate.

After the grand breakfasts that put you somewhere on the border line of wanting to take a nap and sleeping for a week, we finally got to the matters at hand… namely, wine tastings.  With numerous wineries to choose from, we mostly concentrated on the ones around Seneca lake as they tend to be more mature.  The geography of the region makes it a surprisingly ample for wine growing.  In the cold fall the vines are kept warm with the fog from the lakes.  The lake water relatively shallow is heated enough during summer to provide the warm comfort to the vineyards, thus extending the growing season.  Majority of the worthy wines in the region are white, sweeter wines, but we did make a trip to Keuka lake to Dr Frank Konstantine winery for some serious reds.
Wine taster’s tools… Pen and paper to follow alone and take notes, a taster’s glass and bland crackers to cleanse the palate.

Sunshine in a glass... perfect

All the tasing is had work, so little naps along the way are a must.

And some hearty lunch

A simple salad of freshest greens with candied walnuts and squash blossoms

Eggs Benedict served over duck confit...

A little indulgence at the end... the tart Cabarnet razberr sorbet a perfect compliment to rich choclate cake

As it was my birthday, we went out to one of the finest restaurants in the area, Suzanne’s on Seneca serves fines and most refined food, with ease and comfort.  As we sat on the deck observing the sunset and smelling freshly cut grass the most refined of dishes were being served.  This is the type of restaurant that makes me fall in love with food all over again.

A perfect sunset with dinner

Amuse bouche of home made pasta filled with home-made ricotta and salad

I have to re-create this corn chowder if it is he last thing I do. 

Perfectly refined and beautiful.  Coffee crusted scalops.

This desert menu makes me want to storm into Suzanne's kitchen and demand recipes. 

All in all, it was a grand experienced and topped off with complimentary late harvest desert wine…. I couldn’t ask for a better birthday

After finely refined food at Suzzane’s it was time for something a bit more rustic.  The Hazelnut Kitchen restaurant does just that.  Tiny, seasonal menu done to perfection.  No frills, just great tasting food.
Homemade bread with home-made chived butter, served in a tin bucket ( why didn’t I think of that?)

Rabbit Terine

One of the best things I ever ate was that lightly braised cabbage with cranberries and goosberries.  Sausage was not even needed.  This one keeps me up at night, I keep trying to figure out how it was made.  I saw some goosberries at the market today, I think I will give it a try.

Lardone toasts with pickled onions and pesto. 

Ultimately it is never about the food or the wine or the views.  It is always about the mood you are in, the people who you are with and how those things shape any place you are.  At the end of any trip you are left with a feeling, and it is this feeling that I will recall during long gray winters.  The feeling of a perfect summer weekend! 

I was sad to leave, my sadness somewhat elivitated with a huge amount of wine that is now in my cellar.  Every time I open a bottle of Finger Lakes wine I will remeber that it is only 5 hours away and I can go back any time I want to!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reading this made me relive it all again!!! It was such a great trip!!!!